QX30 blends luxury with gusto


There are many partnerships in the auto industry, including one between Mercedes-Benz and Renault-Nissan.

Like most others, this came from the mutual need for technology, manufacturing facilities and expertise, with economies of scale the key component.

Renault rescued a financially- troubled Nissan in 1999. The two companies have cooperated on joint projects ever since while maintaining a public separation.

Daimler-Benz (Mercedes) entered into an alliance with Renault-Nissan in 2010 with each company holding a small (3.1 per cent) stake in the other.

Since then, Mercedes, Renault and Nissan have shared engines, manufacturing plants and vehicle platforms, with more than a dozen common vehicle projects currently underway in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Mercedes wants to build a pickup truck for global markets - perhaps including North America.

That truck will share its platform with the Nissan NP300 (Navara) and is targeted initially for commercial clients and consumers in Australia, Europe, Latin America and South Africa.

Which brings us to the subject of this week's review - the Infiniti QX30. Nissan wants to make Infiniti a major player in global luxury markets, not just in North America. It required a new vehicle to compete in the burgeoning luxury-compact crossover segment which has grown more than 37 per cent in North America this year alone.

Development costs for an entirely new vehicle run into the billions of dollars, and more importantly in times of such intense growth, require several years from concept to fruition.

Thus, we have the new 2017 Infiniti QX30 - a Mercedes GLA in disguise.

The QX30 in your local Infiniti store shares its platform, engine, transmission; suspension, brakes, electric architecture and some interior trim bits with the Mercedes GLA250. But the parts you see, inside and out, are unique.

The Infiniti design team did an excellent job of differentiating the QX30 from the GLA. The Infiniti has a plethora of sharp angles, sweeping curves and a much more aggressive face.

The wheel openings are extra large and trimmed in black for emphasis and the greenhouse carries the signature Infiniti crescent-shape C-pillars. With a sloping roofline and lower overall height than most, it could just as easily be called a tall station wagon or hatchback rather than a Crossover.

The interior is clearly unique other than minor items like smart keys, window controls, switches on the steering wheel and those for the climate control system. The instrument panel, seats and infotainment are a total departure and purely Infiniti. The infotainment screen is incorporated in the dash rather than stuck on top in the Mercedes. The system operates via touch or the console-mounted controller. The dash itself is asymmetrical and covered by stitched leather.

The Nappa leather upholstery on the test vehicle was clearly superior to the stuff Mercedes uses. The seats they cover are the result of Infiniti's research into 'spinal support.' Infiniti says they are ?engineered to match the curvature of the spine and minimize pressure on back muscles by distributing load more equally.? I say they are supportive and superb for long periods of travel. The rear seat is not as pleasant a place to spend time; it's cramped

. . . and watch your head getting in thanks to the stylishly low roofline. That same low roof, small windows and tick C-Pillar make for poor visibility to the rear. Thankfully, that is more than offset by Infiniti's 360-degree camera system.

The cargo space is actually less than that in a VW Golf, but more than the Mercedes twin.

At the other end of the Q30 lies the same drivetrain as the GLA, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and, in this trim level, all-wheel-drive. The engine produces 250 lb.-ft. of torque starting at 1,200 rpm allowing for quick starts and plenty of instant oomph around town.

The one fault I found was the lack of a 'normal' driven mode. The driver can chose among Eco, Sport or Manual. Eco softens throttle response and ensures shifts into a higher gear as quickly possible. Sport holds the transmission in gear too long and throttle response is perhaps a little too quick, and avoids high gear altogether. Manual is fun, briefly, but not something you want to use daily. Normal would be good.

Thanks to its lower centre of gravity and height, and Infiniti's unique suspension calibration (different springs, shock absorbers and bushings), this is a nimble Crossover - sort of like a tall wagon or hatchback in that respect as well. It stays flat in the corners and while it might be a tad too stiff for some on nasty roads, the ride comfort is suitable for a luxury vehicle.

The steering is another area where the QX30 differs from the Mercedes. Communicative and responsive, it has a nice balance of heftiness at speed and lightness in parking lots.

The new QX30 is available in three models - QX30 ($36,000), QX30 AWD ($38,500) and QX30 sport ($46,500).

A truly global product with French, German and Japanese genes, the Infiniti QX30 is built in England and sold in North America.

  • Model: 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD
  • Price: $38,490 base, $48,635 as tested, including freight
  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, 208 horsepower, 258 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Transmission: seven-speed dual clutch automatic, all-wheel-drive
  • NRCan rating, litres/100 km city / highway: 10.6 / 8.0
  • Length: 4,425 mm
  • Width: 2,083 mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,700 mm
  • Weight: 1,500 kg

Significant standard equipment: all-wheel-drive, 18-in alloy wheels, power folding and heated mirrors, leather seating, heated power front seats, memory seats and mirrors, remote keyless entry, rear-view camera, dual zone automatic climate control

Options on test vehicle: premium package, $5,000 (10-speaker Bose audio system, navigation with 18-cm screen, garage door opener, panoramic sunroof with power shade, front and rear park sensors); technology package, $2,500 (blind spot warning, lane departure forward warning, forward emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, intelligent park assist, around view monitor, LED headlights; metallic paint, $650

Read more on The Chronicle Herald.